This week’s Girls that Go! is one of our most exciting yet. I chatted with Kristin Luna, a Tennessee-based travel writer and eternal nomad. Kristin writes for various magazines and guidebooks, works as a social media strategist for travel companies, and shares her (unedited) adventures and photography on her blog, Camels & Chocolate: Tales from a Travel Addict.
Read on for her tips on her favorite seasonal destinations, the perks of being on a boat, and much more!
GGG: First off, what’s your background? What got you started travel writing?
A zest for learning and a love for exploring. I started out in journalism when I was just 14, worked my way through newspapers in high school and college, then landed a job at Newsweek in New York City upon graduating.
I later moved to Europe and began freelancing while bouncing around the continent, got my first guidebook gig for Frommer’s, eventually moved back to New York and worked in house for a handful of magazines—and it’s all sort of snowballed from there (after a whole lot of persistence, not giving up and paying my dues, I should add!).
I always thought I wanted to be a sports reporter, but I think that’s because I never dreamed one could travel the world and get paid for it!
GGG: Like a lot of our adventurous Girls that Go!, you travel for work and leisure. What luggage do you prefer to use on your trips, and do you have any advice for packing well?
My husband (SVV) turned me onto Tumi, and I love the company’s rolling duffels. They’re expensive but durable, and they have a lifetime warranty. Though if I’m only going to be gone for a few weeks, I’ll insist on packing just a carry-on—it’s so much easier to haul around and less of a burden.
For my birthday this year, SVV gave me an Epiphanie, which is great as it holds both my camera equipment and my laptop. I also have a Canon camera bag for when I’m traveling with several lenses and multiple DSLRs. For more detailed information, I have a couple packing tutorials and videos on my blog, though my top tip is to pack all in one color scheme to cut back on excess shoes and accessories.
GGG: If you had to choose one place to visit for each season, what would they be and why?
Spring: Savannah, Georgia. There’s just nowhere more gorgeous than the South in bloom.
Summer: Iceland. The window for traveling here is so narrow due to weather, and if you want to attempt the Ring Road in its entirety, parts of it are only open during summer months.
Fall: the Bahamas. While it’s hurricane season, I’ve visited the Islands several times during September and had great luck with the weather. The crowds are fewer, prices lower and diving is perfect. Just be sure and purchase trip insurance in case a tropical storm does rear its ugly head!
GGG: I read a little about when you met your husband while abroad. Any tips for keeping the love alive while being on the road so much?
Constant communication. I text him frequently while I’m traveling so he knows I’m thinking about him. We also email and occasionally video chat, though time differences don’t always make that a viable option.
Compromise. There have been a whole lot of amazing trips and assignments I’ve turned down because I was gone too long during a certain period of time as it was, and I don’t think that’s fair to do that to him. Plus, the longer we’re together—seven years and counting!—the more I miss him while away. You’d think it would be the opposite, but I guess that’s a sign of a healthy relationship.
I’m also incredibly fortunate to have found someone who is extremely supportive of my career and doesn’t get jealous of all the cool opportunities that come my way. He’s the bee’s knees.
Make the most of your time together. I know SVV gets annoyed that my phone and computer are extra appendages even when we’re together, so planning date nights and weekends away are vital.
GGG: What do you think is the bravest thing you’ve done in your travels?
Probably taking off for Europe at 20 years old, with just a backpack, a one-way flight and a train ticket in hand. I’d never traveled alone and had only been out of the country on school trips to Italy and Mexico and family vacations to England and the Caribbean, and that year I explored a dozen countries on my own. It was terrifying (at first), and then it became incredibly liberating.
GGG: You recently circumnavigated the globe working for Semester at Sea. What were you favorite aspects of traveling so far by boat?
Not having to pack and unpack. How great is it to be able to go out and explore a new place all day, then return to your own “home” and all your stuff at night? So much more convenient than the hassle of cramming all of your things into a suitcase and unpacking at a hotel.
The comforts of the ship. The MV Explorer is just fantastic: Aside from the nine classrooms and the Union (the lecture hall), there are two dining rooms, outdoor patio seating, a pool deck and snack bar, a store, a coffee counter, a gym, a spa and a staff/faculty lounge. It’s quite luxurious—much nicer than any place I’ve ever lived as an adult.
No long flights. We traveled to the opposite side of the globe without having to hop a plane, other than our two-hour flight from Nashville to Boston to board the ship and hour-and-a-half flight from Fort Lauderdale to Nashville at the end of the four months. And yet we covered more than 25,000 nautical miles and 14 countries. How many people can say that?
Having others with whom to appreciate the experience. I’ve primarily traveled solo, with SVV or with my family, so going around the world with 600 others was wild! But having such memorable experiences creates unimaginable bonds, and I left the program with hundreds of new friends, many of whom I’ll continue to visit and keep in touch with throughout the rest of my life.
GGG: To this point, you’ve traveled to more than 80 countries on 6 continents! With all the traveling, what’s your favorite thing about coming home?
I love stability and routine, which people find odd given as adventurous and on-the-go as I am. I could never be a permanent digital nomad, as I like having material things, a husband to return to and a ridiculously cute puppy. Plus, we’re in the process of buying our first house, so I’m really looking forward to decorating and lots of DIY projects! For the past 10 years, I’ve lived in city apartments or tiny sublets, so the concept of being a home owner is completely novel to me.
GGG: Last but not least, what are you most looking forward to seeing in 2012?
I’m heading back on the MV Explorer this week as the communications coordinator for the May Enrichment Voyage and will get to check one place I’ve always wanted to visit off my life list—the Galapagos Islands! That and planning a return visit to my first love, Scotland, this fall with SVV are really getting me excited about what the rest of the year holds.